Thursday, January 30, 2014


I have enjoyed reading this new title from the Brian Davis' stable, so much so, you can read a little about him and his fascinating book in this week's history feature in the Brentwood Gazette.  I am hoping he will join me soon on radio on  Michelle Ward's' regular Book Club programme on Phoenix 98fm which is broadcast from the well known Brentwood Centre Studio.  For an early signed copy before the programme, please contact Brian at Listen again via

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


We are well into our third year of monthly Book Club on Phoenix Radio 98fm with the lovely Michelle Ward who enjoys reading and writing - think I have managed to persuade her to write her own book about her busy, fun-filled life.

Each month, we choose a different book theme.  We also bring into the studio a writer in that particular genre.  January brought in the topic of the rise of the slim local A5 size community book.  Shame that many residents immediately consign this to the recycling bin, but although chock full of advertisements (which of course pay for the printing) often include some interesting editorial.  Wannabe writers please note - as several young writers have used the 'community book' as the first step to paid publishing.

Last week, we invited Melinda and John Tickel who own Dandelion, the delightful coffee shop in Stock to come into the studio to talk about Melinda's book THE VILLAGE MUMS which she created a few years ago and sold out, making useful contributions to her charity. It was lovely to meet the couple in the studio and Melinda was able to tell listeners about her book which is full of stories, quotes and tips. John was also entertaining as you will hear in the recording.

Do pop in to DANDELION at 20 Mill Road, Stock, Ingatestone CM4 9LJ Tel:   01277 840023  01277 840023

Monday, January 20, 2014



Margaret Brown pictured with her book which is linked to The Society of women Writers & Journalists - a fascinating read. At the start of my research into the newly published history of the Society of Women Writers & Journalists - THE WOMAN WRITER, I’ve read material written by authors who’ve been linked to our Society. One fascinating book has been written by Margaret Brown entitled THE PRIEST AND THE PLAYWRIGHT. It outlines the friendship and correspondence between her great uncle, Father – later Bishop – William Brown and our SWWJ first President, American-born Pearl Craigie, one of London’s most famous playwrights of the late Victorian period. Pearl met Father Brown, a Scotsman in the late 1890s. His purpose in life, other than practising his deep Catholicism, was to build a church – St Anne’s at Vauxhall, London. Pearl Craigie, a wealthy woman, helped finance the building of this beautiful church now known as ‘the Spanish Church’.

Margaret Brown’s book took many years to complete. She read every single one of the hundreds of hand written letters between Father Brown and Pearl Craigie and we glimpse intriguing stories set in an Edwardian England (and the Isle of Wight) which contrast amazingly with today’s world. Margaret’s book is a great blend of national history, family letters and personal insight, which combine to make a fascinating read.

Friday, January 17, 2014


SIX OF THE BEST by Sylvia Kent

Most of us have put our gardens to bed for the winter and there’s nothing much to do in the open garden and allotment in the present cold weather, except perhaps a little work in the greenhouse. Currently, we are keeping leaves off the paths and lawn, but alongside this, let’s have a think about our local bird wildlife. 
As well as stocking up nature’s bird larder with seeds, nuts and a little fruit, let’s plant some shrubs that we know the birds will visit for the berries that the plants will provide in the coming months.  These friendly birds that have kept us company with their colours and song through the summer deserve a little help from us now that winter has arrived.
So, now that the cold winds are blowing and ice is on the paths,  let’s make sure our wildlife are fed by growing plants and shrubs from which they can feast when the going gets tough.  It looks as if we have lots of frosty weather and snow ahead of us.
Although these days, our garden is relatively small, there are still the old faithful shrubs that are fabulous “doers”, providing spring flowers, autumn berries and often fruit, not just for me and my winemaking, but for our lovely birds. For years I’ve been ‘growing for the birds’ and I’ve drawn up a list of home-grown bird food in the form of the shrubs I grow. These are my six favourite shrubs that provide the most splendid and colourful berries.

 1.  Holly (Ilex aquifolium). Although holly can be a little painful on the fingers when weeding, I love growing the female holly species which produces abundant berries. We do have a male version growing nearby.

 2.   Ivy (Hedera helix.  Robins and wrens seem attracted to common old Ivy, particularly when the black berries appear in mid-winter. Thrushes, waxwings, starlings and jays also seem to be drawn to this plant.

3.   Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna). As a winemaker, I love this shrub, often grown as a hedge.  The shiny red clusters of haws can remain on the branches until February or March and the blackbirds, redwings and chaffinches adore them.

 4.  Cotoneaster (Contoneaster species). Their berries are a glorious red, but birds to also favour the orange pyracantha, too which bristles with berries from the autumn and they they are quickly stripped off  by the thrushes and blackbirds.

5.   Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia). Depending on which species you plant, the Rowan provides berries for the birds from late July till November. Starlings and backbirds feast hungrily on the berries and it’s rather odd to note that they give the rather exotic white-berried forms, such as Sorbus  cashmiriana and Sorbus glabrescens, a miss.

 6. Shrub Rose (Rosa species).  Rose hips are also used by me in preserves, but I am happy to share them with mistle thrushes and blackbirds who can manage this rather large fruit. Smaller hips of Rosa canina are eaten by a wide range of birds and remain juicy until the end of winter.



Wednesday, January 15, 2014


I'm delighted that one of my books based on the glorious past of the Society of Women Writers and Journalists, is once again in the spotlight.  Reason is that the Society which is the oldest professional writing group in the United Kingdom, is planning to celebrate its 120th anniversary this year.  We were created on 1 May 1894 by (believe it or not) a man by the name of Joseph Snell Wood.  Fleet Street of the 1890s was so very different from that in later decades and this clever, charismatic newspaperman was one of the few to believe that women could write well. He employed many.  At that time, he was editor of several national dailies and journals, such as The Gentlewoman, The Daily Graphic and The Bystander.  He seemed to understand the difficulties experienced by "the new woman" who tried to earn her living in the print room. And he succeeded. When he launched our Society on that sunny morning in 1894, more than 200 women clamoured to become members. Since then, thousands of professional journalists, novelists and poets can say they owe so much to this gentleman whose daughter eventually became a member of our Society.

Our story is amazing with history unfolding as a background.  We celebrate those pioneers and first notable members and the work they carried out during the Boer War (the first women war reporter), the Great War and of course, during World War 11 our member Phyllis Deakin was the first woman staff reporter on The Times and the first woman journalist in Paris after it was re-taken in WWII. 

Royalty often came to our lunches and festivals and our presidents' list included names such as Lady Violet Astor, Clemence Dane, Vera Brittain, Joyce Grenfell, Nina Bawden, Lady Longford and many more. Currently Baroness Williams of Crosby (Shirley Williams), Lady Sandra Howard,  Sir Tim Rice, Simon Brett and our lovely Life President Victoria Wood are counted among our luminaries. So, work is progressing to provide an exciting programme of upcoming events which we hope many writers, not only female but many of our male associates will enjoy. More details at a later date, but do check us out at 

Monday, January 06, 2014


As an author always keen on researching my bang-up-to-date non-fiction projects (currently to be viewed in the Billericay Gazette) and Essex Life, it's satisfying to see some of my earlier books still in print after a dozen years or so. 

Happy to discover that one such book is earning pennies for the young patients at London's Great Ormond Street Hospital in memory of the lovely James Dorrington who died on 1 January 2002.  James's story is included in my third book The Billericay School which took around 18 months to research and write after interviewing scores of teachers and pupils and eventually was launched in 2003.

Former President General Musharraf

checking out the book when it was presented by Billericay School 6th Formers on a trip to Pakistan 

Today, I discovered that my book is being advertised on the Billericay School's website for £10 (saving £3) and obtainable from School Librarian, Mrs J Clare ( telephone 01277 655191)  or by email from the school office.

The book profiles not only the history of their school but of this small Essex town's history over many centuries.  All profits will be donated to Great Ormond Street Hospital and The James Dorrington Fund. Background details can be found on the Billericay School website  contact School 01277 655191



Thursday, January 02, 2014


Can't believe this is my 700th posting and my 137,000 viewers over many years. First, I wish you all a healthy, happy New Year. Thanks for so many lovely emails and posts - also to my Twitter, Facebook and Linked-In colleagues.

Currently working on a new book, few articles for magazines and  reading the work of my writer-pals - such a talented band of 'creatives'.

Love the book by Jim Reeve who has studied the once farming county town of Chelmsford which recently received the status of a city - the first in Essex.  Will be posting a feature about this super book at a later date, but here is the front cover which I see is advertised in all Essex Waterstones and probably other bookshops.